You want a puppy. You tell everyone that it’s your son who wants it – and it’s true, little Timmy does want one – but, really, it’s you who can’t wait to bring that dog home.
Anyone thinking that they are ready to have a pet should check out local dog shelters, humane societies and rescue groups before purchasing an expensive breed from a pet store.
But if you are determined to get one from a breeder or a pet store, you might want to double-check that you are actually buying the fluffy little bundle and not leasing it.
Yes, pet leasing is a fairly new but very real industry. It is a predatory practice for pushing expensive puppies on people who cannot afford them and do not always understand they are essentially renting an animal for years — and paying far more than they might have expected.
There is nothing unlawful about renting-to-own a living animal in the same way that you might pay for a car or a sofa. The contracts used by the most prominent pet-leasing firms include the word “lease” several times and inform lessees that they are “leasing the Pet and have no ownership rights in the Pet unless you exercise your purchase option.
But often the pet store employees or breeders often gloss over the terms of the lease — either because they do not understand them or because they want to make a sale.
Even if the contracts might be legally sound, they are ethically troubling, in part because the person caring for the puppy has no ownership rights, and anyone who owns a pet knows that they can be expensive to care for. The contracts also state that lessees are responsible for “service and maintenance” of the pet, and warns that the company might repossess the adorable pup if the lease is broken.
Treating a dog as an inanimate object is objectionable to anyone who has ever had a dog as part of their family – you are responsible for their care and safety, and in exchange, they are loyal and loving companions.
The Federal Trade Commission’s consumer information blog recently warned about the practice, saying that people who lease pets can still be on the hook for payments even if the animal dies or runs away.
Like a “buy here, pay here” car purchase, or many “rent to own” arrangements, you are legally required to pay off the contract no matter what happens to the car, the couch or the Collie!
To make it worse, these scams prey on people with bad credit and take advantage of people’s emotions.
Some of these pet stores turn around and sell the lease to another company, and the next thing the owner knows, they’re getting a bill from a company they’ve never heard of.
And what’s the big deal about whether or not the financing is through a loan or a lease? Loans are subject to laws, which set the amount of interest that can be charged. Leases don’t have those same restrictions. There’s no cap on the interest you can be charged. For instance, some of these companies have interest rates that range from 36 to 170 percent. To put that into perspective, the average credit card has an APR of around 15 percent.
These arrangements can lead to bad credit should you miss payments or are late with them.
As always, this is another reason to always carefully read a contract and ask questions if you don’t fully understand.
Below are alternatives to this scam:
- Buy a rescue. If you can find it in your heart, get a rescue dog from a shelter instead. You’ll still pay, but the costs are a lot lower. You’re doing a good deed and getting a dog that truly needs a home!
- Budget for your dog. No matter how you get your dog, there’s one surefire way to make sure you don’t get stuck with a lease: have the money to cover the cost in the first place.
- Get pet insurance. Dogs are expensive initially. They can be even more expensive over their lives, especially if there are medical issues you can’t even take into account yet. Pet insurance means that expensive vet bills won’t ruin your finances as much as a lease would.
Taking a care of a dog, from the walking to the potty training to the cleaning up after failed potty training, is a lot of work, but most people don’t consider the work that needs to happen before you even bring the dog home. Make sure your finances are in order, so you aren’t tempted by a dog lease, and you’ll have money left over to spoil your furry friend for years to come.
And as always, pass the information on to friends and family!!
DCP wishes happy, safe holidays to the Tribuna family of readers and advertisers!!
This article was written by Catherine Blinder, chief education and outreach officer of the Department of Consumer Protection of the State of Connecticut. To learn more about how the Department of Consumer Protection can help, visit us online at www.ct.gov/dcp.